Organising Digital Media Content in a VLE
Here we highlight the major considerations needed when managing still images, video and audio within a virtual learning environment (VLE) and look at practical solutions to help ensure you do this effectively.
With a VLE, the choice around managing the course content tends to be that you either inherit an existing course or build it up from scratch as needs demand. Both of which normally mean that the planning of where content should be kept is not in your hands. Yet considering how and where the content will reside is a very critical issue, one that is covered here in this advice document.
Below is a simple graphic to show three general areas for the storage of digital media in relation to a VLE and to highlight the fact that each piece of digital media is likely to exist in multiple locations.
- Storage locally. You will store your digital media resources away from the VLE, most likely on your own computer network and/or digital media devices. This needs to be managed and effectively backed-up in case of data loss. However this is beyond the scope of this document, which focuses on the next store location - the VLE.
- Storage on the VLE. This is the focus of this document and is the primary location where both you, and the learner will interact with the digital media resources. Addressing the issues surrounding storage within the VLE will benefit both parties and the reasons are twofold: organisation is key for sustainability of a course and secondly good organisation is key for managing a better learner experience.
- Storage on the learner device. We use the VLE as a place to directly facilitate learning but it can also be used as a delivery platform for learning resources we want to give to the learner that contributes to learning objectives. Typically this is done by providing downloadable learning resources such as PowerPoint lecture material and podcasts which the learner can download to their own device as per stage 3 of the above graphic. In regards to this type of storage, we are primarily concerned that learners will be able to access the resources. Once they have the learning resources it is out of our control, which is something we must accept and embrace.
Advantages of organising media on a VLE
Elaborating on the graphic above, the potential benefits of organising your digital media are shown below for both teaching/support staff and the learner:
Benefits for teaching staff
- Makes updating media easier in the future as there are clear processes sign-pointing to how media is uploaded and organised.
- For auditing purposes, it is essential that all submissions can be accounted for and located as required
- Speeds up use of the VLE and associated content
- When multiple authors are expected to manage the same course clear processes and sign-posting makes it easier for everybody to understand and use
- When Staff members come and go, this can make it difficult to locate original files and sustainability impossible – organising your media will support coping with this situation.
Benefits for learners
- A well-designed VLE course will reduce barriers for learners to engage with resources
- A well thought out and consistent design will help the learner find resources more easier
- Use of the same naming conventions and consistent locating of resources will further support the learner who will become accustomed to your conventions
The careful planning of the processes related to learner interactions with the digital media resources will help to construct the best experience for all learners as learner expectations of what to expect are met
Planning the structure for digital media on the VLE
Two common ways to structure your media within a VLE are: you can either structure your media into its own area (e.g. all the video is located at ‘X' location and learners have to visit this location to use or view the media, regardless of the wider learning context) OR the media can be organised to fit within the context of the learning module (e.g. Module 1 content, Module 2 content and so forth, effectively dispersing the media to where its needed).
You need to decide what makes the most sense for the majority of people who have to interact with the resources, factoring in the learning objectives. For example, if within module one there is a text-based activity to be read that asks the learner to watch a video clip, and then do a task based upon the video, it's normally better for the learner to have the text and video together to support this activity.
The above graphic shows two common ways that digital media content is organised
Organising media in the VLE from 3rd party services
One of the strengths of a VLE is the ability to support pulling in of content from third-party services via RSS or embedding. This is done for all sorts of reasons, including bringing in up to date news and content that gives the learner a reason to come back to the VLE and stay informed. Typical content used includes news, podcasts, and video resources.
It is key that you make a record of all such content so that you can regularly check that it is what you expect and that it is still available.
Due to the fact that neither you nor IT services control any third-party services, there are times when they may be unavailable and contingency plans need to be made and implemented if the content is essential to a teaching session.
Every course will to some degree require annual/regular house cleaning or re-alignment especially after the first round of organising.
It is a good idea to reflect upon what worked well for you and the learners in terms of the structure of how the media is presented and also if it's straightforward to use. For this reason it is worth considering conducting a simple usability test with a few learners or colleagues to ensure everything is organised in a manner that can be logical followed and any issues identified and remedied.
Course organisation is imporant to reduce the chance of poor design affecting the teaching material aims and objectives. The benefits of taking the time to organise your media will ensure that your VLE design best supports your teaching and learning material and learning objectives. Although there is no one method, careful consideration will support your goals of delivering successful material within the VLE as the learner will be able to focus on their tasks.